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Somerset Info

Somerset, Massachusetts

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History

Somerset was first settled in 1677 on the Shawomet lands, and was officially incorporated in 1790. It was named for Somerset Square in Boston, which was, in turn, named for the county of Somerset, England. It was once a vital shipping point, and after the War of 1812 it was one of America's chief distribution points. In 1872, it became the site of a major coal port, and in the early 20th century a large cannery existed in the town. However, as neighboring Fall River's industry grew, it absorbed much of Somerset's, and the town took on more of a suburban character. In fact, the town's population grew during the Great Depression, as many people from Fall River and other localities moved to the suburb. Today, the town's major industry (other than suburban services) is power generation, with the Montaup Electric Company plant upriver (founded in 1923) and the Brayton Point Power Plant at the town's southern tip (founded in 1963). Brayton Point has been the target of much criticism for its pollution problems.

Historically, the town has had a connective relationship with Fall River. Originally, Slade's Ferry ran across the Taunton River to connect the two towns since the late 18th century. In the late 19th century, the Slade's Ferry Bridge connected the two towns, from the current southern terminus of Brayton Avenue in Somerset to Brownell Street in Fall River, and was double-decked, with a railroad section on the top level. The bridge was dismantled after closing in 1970 due to its rapid deterioration and its low height. Its replacement, the Brightman Street Bridge, was opened in 1908. (The path of the old bridge is still somewhat visible; two large sets of power lines cross the river at the same point.) Currently, a new bridge is in construction to replace the deteriorating Brightman Street Bridge. Completion is expected in 2011.

Geography

Somerset is located at 41°44′54″N 71°9′11″W / 41.74833°N 71.15306°W / 41.74833; -71.15306 (41.748502, -71.153188). According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 12.0 square miles (31.0 km²), of which, 8.1 square miles (21.0 km²) of it is land and 3.9 square miles (10.0 km²) of it (32.30%) is water. It borders on Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay, and its east border is formed by the Taunton River, an arm of that bay.

Somerset is bordered by Swansea on the west, Dighton on the north, Fall River on the east (across the Taunton River), and Bristol, Rhode Island to the south. The border with Bristol is located in the middle of the bay. Cities close to Somerset include Fall River, New Bedford, Providence, and the town is one hour's drive south of Boston.

The town is accessed via Interstate 195, which enters the town via the Braga Bridge from Fall River. It is also connected to Fall River via the Brightman Street Bridge, a 100-year old bascule bridge which US Route 6 crosses. Currently, a replacement bridge is being built which has been hampered by problems, and was at one point the third largest construction project in the state (after the Big Dig and the widening of Route 3). Recently, the controversy in Fall River over the proposed building of an LNG terminal has caused officials to consider keeping the old bridge open, as the tankers would not fit through it, and the terminal's proposed site is upriver of the bridges. Route 138 and Route 103 also pass through the town.

Somerset has bus service along Route 6 provided by the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA). The nearest regional bus service is in Fall River, and the nearest rail service is in Providence. There are plans in the works to bring commuter rail service to Fall River, which would give the town rail access to Boston. The town's nearest regional airport is in New Bedford, 18 miles (29 km) away. Until the late 1990s, the nearest airport was in Fall River; however, the airport closed due to various issues. The nearest national airport is T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, 27 miles (43 km) away. The nearest international airport is Logan International Airport, 55 miles (88 km) away.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 18,234 people, 6,987 households, and 5,261 families residing in the town. The population density was 2,248.6 people per square mile (868.1/km²). There were 7,143 housing units at an average density of 880.9/sq mi (340.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.22% White, 0.16% Black or African American, 0.12% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.15% from other races, and 0.79% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.49% of the population.

There were 6,987 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.4% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.7% were non-families. 21.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the town the population was spread out with 20.4% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 26.2% from 45 to 64, and 21.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 90.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $51,770, and the median income for a family was $60,067. Males had a median income of $42,036 versus $29,851 for females. The per capita income for the town was $22,420. About 3.2% of families and 4.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.8% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those age 65 or over.

Government

On the state level, Somerset is represented as part of the Fifth Bristol state representative district, which includes Dighton and parts of Swansea and Taunton. In the state senate, Somerset is part of the First Bristol and Plymouth district, which includes Fall River, Freetown, Lakeville, Rochester, Swansea and Westport. Senator Joan M. Menard, Assistant Majority Leader, (D-Fall River)represents Somerset in the state senate. Somerset is patrolled by Troop D (Southeast District), 3rd (Dartmouth) Barracks of the Massachusetts State Police. On the national level, the town is part of Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district, which is represented by Jim McGovern. The state's senior (Class II) Senator is John Kerry. The state's junior (Class I) Senator is Scott Brown.

The town's library is located north of the town hall in the center of town, and was recently expanded for more resource and meeting areas. The town's historical society is located in the north end of town, and also operates a museum in that location (in the former Village School building). The old Town Hall, to the north of the library is still in use for various public gatherings. The town is served by one centralized police and fire headquarters, along with a smaller branch fire station in the Brayton Point area which is also trained to handle emergencies at the Brayton Point Power Plant. The town's zip codes are 02725 and 02726, although both are now located in the central post office in the heart of town. The town maintains five parks (Buffington Park, Ashton Field, Waterfront Park, Rock Park, and South Complex Baseball/softball fields ), as well as a town beach, Pierce Beach, located next to Pierce Playground along the Taunton River in the north end of town. A sixth park, Slade's Ferry Park, was closed by eminent domain for the right-of-way of the new Brightman Street Bridge being built.

Education

Somerset is served by its own public school system. It has four elementary schools, from north to south they are the North Elementary School, the Chace Street School, the South Elementary School and the Wilbur Elementary School. Somerset Middle School (Formerly known as Somerset Junior High School) is located adjacent to South Elementary along Brayton Avenue, and handles grades 6 through 8. Somerset High School is located along County Street (Route 138). The school's mascot is the "Blue Raider" and its colors are dark blue and white. The school is known locally for having two former baseball players play professionally, Greg Gagne and Jerry Remy. Students from Berkley, Massachusetts also attend Somerset High School due to a per-student tuition agreement between the two towns. The town is a member of the Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School system in Fall River, and high school students may also attend Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton. Many students of all grades attend private schools in Fall River, including Bishop Connolly High School. There are no private schools in the town. Currently the town is in the process of building a new regional school with the town of Berkley. The school to be names Somerset Berkley Regional High School will be built in Somerset on the same site as the old high school. In paper the first graduation class will be the class of 2012, however the projected time of completion for the new building has yet to be calculated.

Music

The Somerset Music Department became notable under the direction and leadership of Dr. Robert Perry in the late 1960s. This was when Somerset got its nickname "Musictown". The groups available at that time were marching band, concert band, orchestra, chorus, glee club, show group, women's chorus, and string ensemble. This was also this time when the annual celebration of Musictown started. The Musictown celebration includes a Kiddies Day (when the kids come march with the marching band), a King and Queen Judging Day, Concert Night, Pops Night, the Musictown Ball, and finally concludes with the Musictown Festival Grand Day. The final day starts with field show presentations by the invited bands and the Somerset Blue Raider Marching Band, and the parade commences at 2:00 PM and lasts approximately 3–8 hours. Currently (2008), the Musictown Festival consists of King and Queen judging Day, the Musictown Ball, Kiddies Day, Pops Night, Concert Night, and Grand Day. Every five years Somerset invites Somerset High School alumni to perform with the current students in all of the music groups. 2008 is the most recent occurrence of this event.

Existing today in the department are the concert band, symphonic band, orchestra, string ensemble, concert choir, treble choir, 'Blue Raider' marching band, winter percussion ensemble, winter guard, jazz band, chorale, and the 'Electrify' show choir. Most of these groups have been within the department for many years, however, there are exceptions.

Though the marching band has existed for as long as anyone in town can remember, no one has ever taken the time to bring the show to competition. The 'Blue Raider' marching band has made its triumphant return as a competing group in the Fall of 2007 with the introduction of a new director, David Marshall, into the department with their field show of 'Wicked.' The group as doubled in one year to now about 60 members and was pleased to travel to Allentown, Pennsylvania in November 2008 to compete in the USSBA Northeastern Championships. They received the caption of Best Percussion in their division of 2A and also received the captions of 3rd best color guard and 4th best music. The group tied for 5th overall in their division which is a major feat for this group in their first year of major competitive shows. The group also competes in the NESBA circuit of shows. The 2008-2009 show, was 'King Kong' and the 2009 show was 'Hydrodynamics'. The 2010-2011 show was Heartbeat which lead the Blue Raiders to 2nd place with a score of 91.7 breaking the 90 mark, a first time occurence in the history of the ensemble.

The Winter Percussion ensemble was also instituted in 2007 by Tim Sepe. This ensemble is a group in which students practice with percussion instruments such as xylophones, marimbas, vibraphones, drums, and other auxiliary percussion equipment with added guitar, bass, and keyboard parts. The 2007 group was a concert percussion group and they played jazz classics such as 'Take the A Train' and 'Conga.' The 2008-2009 season was instead headed by Matt Cavanaugh. The group took the leap to an indoor marching ensemble. Their show was titled 'The Pursuit' and competed in many shows on the NESBA circuit during the winter of 08 and 09.

The 'Electrify' show choir is one of the most popular and exclusive and secretive groups at Somerset High School. Instituted in the 2004-2005 year by Micheal Winslow, the group travels as a singing and dancing group much like the show group that was part of the department many years ago. As there is no established circuit, the group travels to many area schools and performs in competition. The group even hosts their own show dubbed the 'New England Show Choir Classic.' Currently headed by Andrew "Archy" Arcello, the group has taken home several plaques and trophies alike during the 2008-2009 season thanks to former director Richard Sylvia. The pit band, directed under David "Money" MarshaII, is also a crucial member to the group and have also taken home several trophies this season.

Somerset High School is also home to a musical, non-drama department which overlaps the choral and band aspects of the music department. The community looks forward each year to the professional performance the group puts forward each year. Past performances include 'Little Shop of Horrors' (2010), 'Side Show' (2009), 'West Side Story'(2008), and 'Grease'(2007). This year's performance will be the musical 'Fiddler on the Roof'.

 


 


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